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Close to 99 per cent voting was recorded on Monday for electing India's next president, the returning officer for the poll announced saying it was perhaps the highest-ever percentage. The counting of votes will take place on July 20. The numbers are stacked in favour of the ruling coalition's nominee Ram Nath Kovind, a former Bihar governor, over the opposition's candidate and former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar. "The voting was close to 99 per cent. I think this would perhaps be the highest ever percentage," Lok Sabha Secretary General and returning officer for the election Anoop Mishra told a press conference here. Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Gujarat, Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Uttarakhand and Puducherry recorded 100 per cent voting. In Parliament House, the voting percentage was 99 per cent, said Mishra. He said while the sanctioned strength of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha is 776, 771 MPs were eligible to cast their votes. There are two vacancies each in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, while one BJP MP Chedi Paswan does not have voting rights following a judicial pronouncement, he added. In Delhi, 717 MPs were to cast their ballot but only 714 exercised their franchise. The TMC's Tapas Pal, the BJD's Ram Chandra Hansdak and Ambumani Ramadoss of the PMK did not cast their votes. Fifty-five MPs had sought permissions to cast their vote in state capitals.
These included Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, his UP counterpart Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya and Union minister Uma Bharti. BJP chief Amit Shah, who is an MLA from Gujarat, had also sought permission to cast his vote in Delhi. Trinamool Congress MPs cast their votes in Kolkata. West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool president Mamata Banerjee said all TMC lawmakers voted for the joint opposition candidate, Meira Kumar, in the presidential election to register their protest against "what is going on in the country". She claimed that Kumar would get the maximum number of votes from West Bengal. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said MLAs should vote in the presidential poll according to their conscience. "We are supporting Meira Kumar. All should vote following their conscience," he said. The presidential election is through secret ballot and party whip is not applicable. As lawmakers voted to elect the next president, the ruling BJP exuded confidence that Kovind would win with a "comfortable" margin. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the fight between Kovind and Kumar was "one of ideologies" and rated the latter as the best choice for the president's post. In Parliament House, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first person to cast his vote, Mishra said. He also said that except for Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and Tripura, data has been received from all other states which indicates that the voting was "close to 100 per cent". Counting will begin at 11 AM on July 20. First the ballot box of Parliament House will be opened, and then, the ballot boxes received from states will be counted on alphabetical basis. Thirty two polling stations including the one in Parliament house, were set up in various states. A total of 4,896 voters -- 4,120 MLAs and 776 elected MPs -- are eligible to cast their ballot. MLCs of states with legislative council are not part of the electoral college. While the value of an MLA's vote depends on the population of the state he or she belongs to, the value of an MP's vote remains the same at 708.